The Uproar Over the Biracial Cheerios Ad Is Actually Progress

Race has gotten too complex for racists, as the recent tempest in a cereal bowl shows

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Cheerios

What’s more all-American than Cheerios? How about a wrenching national conversation on race? In recent days, a new commercial for the iconic cereal has become a phenomenon — not because it was an especially good ad, but because it featured a black dad, a white mom and their biracial daughter. On the ad’s YouTube page, anonymous haters spewed so much bile against the image of mixed-race domesticity that the comments section had to be disabled.

The racist comments were far outnumbered by expressions of support. The ad, which has been viewed over 1.8 million times, garnered 24,000 thumbs-ups to just over 1,500 thumbs-downs. But the intensity and vitriol of the race baiters got the media’s attention. The subtext of the coverage has been not just outrage but shock: America is supposed to be past this kind of racism — what just happened?

(VIDEO: Cheerios Commercial Showing Biracial Family Riles Haters)

There are three lessons to draw from this fevered moment. The first is that this kind of racism is precisely what happens when a society begins moving past this kind of racism. Had it not been for the election to the presidency of a biracial man who chooses to identify as black, the Cheerios ad would likely not have been as fiercely attacked or defended. But we do have such a man in the White House. We do live in a time when whiteness and white maleness in particular no longer confer automatic primacy. To angry whites who resent the multicolored future for leaving them behind, lashing out at a mixed-race kid who likes Cheerios might seem like an act of defiant political incorrectness — but it’s the epitome of powerlessness.

The second lesson is that pseudo-controversies often matter not for the “news” or “facts” they purport to convey but for their value as community parables and tales of moral instruction. Why did the media turn this tempest in a cereal bowl into a national phenomenon? Not because every household was already discussing the ad — most of us learned about it only through well-publicized reactions to it — but because this is the kind of thing that (mainly white) news editors and television producers believe that we, as Americans, should collectively disapprove of. And contrived as it all is, this too represents progress.

(MORE: In New Job, Italy’s First Black Minister Confronts Culture of Casual Racism)

The deepest lesson is that race is getting too complex for racists and more complex than even the well-meaning sometimes realize. Bi-racial even seems too simple. Interracial marriages are at an all-time high, and over 9 million people in the 2010 Census identified as multiracial, a 32% jump. There are words these Americans use for themselves — blasian, hapa, mestizo — yet our public language is clumsy and deficient. My daughter is Chinese-Scotch-Irish-Lithuanian-Jewish. She calls herself Asian, with a touch of irony.

Depending on your vantage point, this age of racial flux is either exhilarating or terrifying. The boxes and labels we’ve used to contain race are collapsing. Our inherited and often unspoken notions about the U.S.’s fundamental whiteness, about the alienness of brown and yellow skin, about the indelible stigma of blackness — all are falling away, their adherents dying off. To be sure, we are not beyond race in the U.S. A glance at how power flows in any institution still reminds us that race matters, and darkness disadvantages. But kids like my daughter or the one in the Cheerios ad or the millions celebrating the ad are proof that a more fluid and customizable way of talking about race and cultural identity is going to emerge. Is my daughter Asian or white? Yes. Chinese or Asian? Yes. Lithuanian or Scotch-Irish? Yes. Chinese or Jewish? Yes. American? Yes. Definitely.

MORE:  You Can’t Be an Accidental Racist

57 comments
DH_westcoast
DH_westcoast

all societies have had their idiots. We just see more of them now with social media.

No decent person objects to this ad. The hateful comments are overwhelmingly made by people with less than positive lives. They spend their time on social media whereas people of good will tend to not comment so much.

Our so-called mainstream media are making a story where none exists. . . I say to them -- get a life.

Obsidian-lite
Obsidian-lite

Unfortunately, both Liu and the media would have you believe that those angry and stupid comments over the Cheerios ad were exclusively from whites. Truth is they were also from blacks angry that a black man would betray his people in favor of a white woman, which is a very old taboo in some circles. But, once again, the white racist is more marketable and appealing than the black racist who makes the same stink.

redraja380
redraja380

if we live in a supposedly "race blind society" what is the point of affirmative action, by its very definition it is reverse discrimination. If America really wants to get ahead of its past and live in a society with less animosity race based affirmative action must end. There are thousands of black millionaires whose children have a million times more benefits, education wise, than a poor Southeast Asian immigrant; But the black child will get a 450 pt curve on the SAT compared to the asian child according to a Princeton University study. If anything affirmative action should be based on income and not on race, that way race can progressively be phased out as a divider of society. The government should lead the way and start to abolish archaic systems of reverse discrimination and blatant bigotry.

hoenerje
hoenerje

So, I'm wondering:  what was General Mills' objective in airing an ad featuring a biracial couple?  I mean, with the enormous amount of money required to pay for airing ads on national TV, choosing a biracial couple had to have been a very carefully considered decision with a specific strategy in mind. How did they think featuring a biracial couple in their ad would benefit their company, and how would they justify their decision?  Were they trying to trying to sell more cereal to biracial couples?   Were they endorsing biracial marriage?  Why would a cereal company endorse biracial marriage?  Why did they decide to feature a biracial couple and not a homosexual couple with an adopted child?  Has the General Mills board of directors or stockholders previously expressed an interest in endorsing biracial marriage or other nontraditional family or social arrangements?

Joyce3350
Joyce3350

Good Morning to you and Florida Sunshine going your way. I hope you had a nice glass of Florida Orange Juice this morning along with your Cheerios.

Anybody who sees a problem with this Cheerios Commercial should take a moment and look in the mirror of their own bathroom and see a person with hatred that was instilled in them from their parents. They spew (matter that is vomited) hatred and bully traits. The problem is that you are allowed to reproduce and further your children with more hatred to continue for generations to come.

Keep flying your confederate flags and think you are better because you were born white instead of black. Actually that makes it easier for me to see your bumper stickers and I always have an ample supply of chicken hearts and candles. As a witch, I can send you more bad vibes than you can handle. Trust me. Always remember, what goes around, comes around. Maybe it's your time next.

I'm a retired white lady from South Florida and I know all your AVATARS. Don't blame me if bad news comes your way soon.

Please excuse me while I have a gigantic bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios with sliced bananas.

You think you are a White Supremacist? Well think again and keep posting here and see what happens to your life before July1st.

All the Best, Joyce

cristalshandalear
cristalshandalear

You are wrong about households not discussing the Cheerios campaign. Actually for me, it started last year with the "Big Brother" commercial. I had seen several comments along the lines of "black people learn to steal early" and "the commercial is a fantasy because no black father would be there to take care of his kids." These words were hurtful and based in the plain evil that is racism. As for there was more support for the video than there were racist comments, that's just stupid. It's a CEREAL COMMERCIAL. There shouldn't be ANY racist comments. It doesn't matter how many. It's the fact that they exist at all. So you're wrong about the controversy being scripted or promoted. Just because you weren't aware of it, doesn't mean it wasn't being talked about. If the media DID pick this up then it's about time because nothing else has seemed to move them on issues of race. Not the killing of Trayvon Martin, or the recent lynchings in Mississippi. The media has turned a blind eye to the racial resentment towards President Obama. And the fact that when the economy went south black employment has stayed in the double digits even into the supposed "recovery". If the media is finally doing the right thing and doing right by the black people they take so much pleasure in maligning then maybe just maybe it's one small step to doing what they should have done all along.

MelissaSanders
MelissaSanders

I don't use the word racist, I use ignorance. Understand there really is no pure race especially here in America. I think it's up tu us to maintain diversity and multi culture alive as possible. The ignorant people should be looked at as the minority for having a small mentality, no sense and cultue or diversity. I'm sorry you don't get out of your backyard enough to learn and embrace diversity but yet continue to carry silly family values that in todays world really do not have validity due to ignorance. Yes my fiance is white and I am black!!!!



Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/06/04/cheerios-ad-takeaway-race-is-now-too-complex-for-racists/#ixzz2VXsKbb90

Ash122
Ash122

I don't really understand why the article's link from "anonymous haters" goes to a page about Anonymous.  I doubt a group of hacktivists is going online to post racist messages in the youtube comment section for a cereal ad.

veronicalodge2010
veronicalodge2010

I'll accept bi-racial couples in ads when the person of color is female and male with equal frequency.  

Currently 99% of bi-racial couples who appear in media have a male person of color.  That suggests to me that their placement is as much (or more) for effect rather than an attempt to accurately reflect a diverse society.

Jeremiah_Lyles
Jeremiah_Lyles

The young girl is not pretty. For that reason and the fact that the ad might promote interacial marriage it should be pulled.

MarkHolland
MarkHolland

Diversity is always good everywhere all the time. Those who fear it are wailing into a hurricane. 

AzulJoel
AzulJoel

What I find most confusing about this article is the author's assumption that all of the negative comments were from racist white people. One of my friends is in an interracial marriage, and she lost black friends because of it, but as far as I know, he lost know white friends. I'm sure many of the comments were from racist white people, but we can't ignore the possibility that many of those comments were from blacks, Asians, Latinos, etc....

humble2cents
humble2cents

So, mixed race/mulatto folksare some kind of brand new trend ??? Really??? Hmmm.. That’s news to me , my mother ( mixed race ) was born in 1934 to a white women and black man. Not saying that their lives were idea, absolutely not. They fled Kentucky because my grandfather was to be hung the next day( they left in the middle of night)… true story …. Mulatto children were running around the plantations in slavery times, no? And youare telling me that white folks didn’t know why lighter skin blacks have lighter skin and wavy or loose curly hair? That they had to be informed by a cereal commercial? Really????? Talkin’ about head in the sand…

sumitron_2k@hotmail.com
sumitron_2k@hotmail.com

Ah well racist America..last 6 years I have lived here never faced an incident of racism until yesterday when I went jogging. A black guy just came In front of me and said "you know what we killed Osama , you are next in line"..I wanted to respond but then decided against it as he would have me dragged to his level. (  BTW I am brown guy from India & a non muslim (not that it made any difference justifying his act))... We still live in a world where people act irrationally and just need some or the other pretense to hate..

bengolfn13
bengolfn13

I'LL SAY IT - ONLY APPROX 2% OF WHITE WOMEN MARRY BLACK MEN

now the % of black men that marry outside of their race is MUCH higher!

the balck women should object the most...

riccismiles
riccismiles

I'm in SHOCK that this cereal ad is getting this much attention. PLUS, the comments make my head hurt. I've read people talking about "all black ads" and how they dont see any (I have seen my fair share). I've read about people saying that an "all white ad" would be considered racist (yet MAD MEN is the greatest show in the history of television and.... ). Honestly, in 2013 when a mixed race cereal ad creates this type of storm, YOU better take a good look at yourself and how you feel about your country because the reality is, we are NOT taking care of business. THEN AGAIN -the internet is the great haven of loudmouth posts of hyperbolic joy... its cathartic.

Chiroderma
Chiroderma

What I haven't seen yet is an ad of a big company where the main characters are ALL black, Hispanic or Asian

sjeffh
sjeffh

The idea of an interracial marriage was a calculation made by General Mills with the sole purpose of selling more cereal, no more, no less. 

JaredProphet
JaredProphet

There is a million ways in which I could be wrong about this as I am not a geneticist, genealogist, or part of any learned group that gets to put an ist on the end of their name, but...

Doesn't the vastly varied variety of black skin tones in this country speak to a vast multi-heritage movement long past? I understand that this could be a very touchy subject as the origins of this involve slave owners fathering offspring they dare not claim. 

Loving v Virginia was 1967, and before that there were numerous states in which multi-racial families could live without being jailed. But the children conceived in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling could easily be the grand parents of toddlers now. 

It seems to me that Cheerios is very late to the party. I do like the theory that the hate is just the infantile tantrums of the obsolete. 

And I don't know why we are stuck on half. I think the number of Americans that are half anything is greatly diminishing. 

Though I do understand why when you say to a Republican, "The President is black, get over it." Their (supposedly witty) response is always, "He is Half Black." And that is because this is another item on their imaginary list of things they think the president isn't good at.  

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hoenerje Good point, general mills got exactly what they wanted people talking, and of course the black commnity jumps to the race card along with the racist author of this BS.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@MelissaSanders bravo well said melissa, as a black man I must say we are more racist today then any whites are as a whole.

Heian
Heian

Did you know that 98% of all statistics are made up? Though 100% of those are just being used in place of a logical point.

MelissaSanders
MelissaSanders

Your an idiot, all children of God are beautiful.

andrewmeyer101
andrewmeyer101

She is a little kid. Why would you say that? Who cares if there is interracial marriage? What is the big deal?

humble2cents
humble2cents

@AzulJoel

Of course you’re right about the fact that there is racism in every race. But having first hand experience, and my personal situation, I do believe that as a whole, it was white folks that seemed to ‘look the other way’ as far as mixed race people were concern … In the black community, we ‘knew’ when someone was of mixed heritage( and why they were! ) … even as young children. Because our grandmother was white, we didn’t think it was a big deal, but yes, many of the mixed race people ( my mother and aunt ) were treated terribly by people of both races. Sad really that it’s still going on, and I think that is my point…

AzulJoel
AzulJoel

@humble2cents You should remove the term Mulatto from your vocabulary. It comes from the root word mule, based on the fact that many people believed the children of such couplings would be infertile like a mule.

AzulJoel
AzulJoel

@Chiroderma Have you seen a McDonald's commercial in the last decade? A large portion of their ads are aimed at the black community.

markfrisk
markfrisk

@Chiroderma I don't think you're paying very close attention. There are untold thousands of such ads, both on TV and in print.

Heian
Heian

Because otherwise they would just never, ever, ever, ever depict anything but same-race couples, FOREVER.

powerbabei
powerbabei

@JaredProphet   There "are" a million ways.  Grammar matters as much as content.  It does, especially if you're trying to come off as educated.

Jeremiah_Lyles
Jeremiah_Lyles

That's exactly what I meant Mark. Some people are oblivious to the situation.

mark2tmsx
mark2tmsx

@MelissaSandersNo he's not. What he means is that the girl is being used to smear you, him and anyone similar by depicting someone who is not gorgeous but rotund and lazy looking.

If she looked like Leona Lewis then yes his comments would be wrong. But He's right


Jeremiah_Lyles
Jeremiah_Lyles

'Why would you say that?' It's due to the sterotypes that hollywood throws at us. the commercial could have used a georgous kid for the cad but they went the Hollywood route and wove a form of visual smear into the ad.

'Who cares if there is interracial marriage?' Everyone should care about interracial marriagges. If that continues then there will be no more of us Black humans on the earth.

I would like to see us around for the rest of time. Unlike what some people in the acting business are told.

Heian
Heian

You seem to be lacking in content, which is only slightly more prevalent than the terrible grammar you manage interject. Irony, thy face is thus.

mark2tmsx
mark2tmsx

@Jeremiah_Lyles Leona Lewis is a british singer who is reminiscent of the female in the picture above however, Leona is gorgeous by comparison.

mark2tmsx
mark2tmsx

@TyPollard @Jeremiah_Lyles

He means that love is not what the iconography is about. Some offices of the Justice Department will tell you that certain people in certain regions have clinical Psychiatric problem.

This includes the people working in the film business who have a less than decent regard for some individuals by not depicting them in a pleasing visual manner.

I can see what he means by it being a form of smear.

Look on TV everywhere.

Flalora
Flalora

@JaredProphet  Jared, I was talking to powerbabei. I agree with your original point and I think it was rude and unnecessary to correct your grammar rather than comment on the content of your post.